Technological watch

BASF prepares for a new auto future

Friedrichshafen, Germany — Global materials giant BASF SE was at Fakuma 2021 with a new range of options for electric vehicles, sustainability and other applications.

Ludwigshafen, Germany-based BASF makes a wide range of specialty plastics and chemicals. Globally, the firm employs more than 110,000 and had 2020 sales of more than $69 billion.

Jürgen Becky, senior vice president of performance materials Europe, recently replied by email to questions about BASF's recent work and new materials.

Q: How has BASF adjusted its strategy for the electric vehicles market?
Becky: Electromobility is not only impacting the powertrain of cars but almost every single application in cars. We are in close contact with our customers to develop corresponding solutions with respect to, e.g., high-voltage applications, battery heat management [and] safety concepts, only to mention a few.

Q: How is the role of sustainability changing for BASF materials?
Becky: Sustainability challenges us on how we improve the way our materials are made, used and recycled further. Addressing these challenges gives us an opportunity to push the possibilities that we create with our materials. To mention a few recent examples:

• BASF is planning to make PCF (product carbon footprint) data available for its entire portfolio by the end of 2021. Transparent emission data will enable us to develop plans together with our customers to reduce CO2 emissions along the value chain up to the final consumer product.

• Recycled content, net-zero CO2 and end-of-life options are central development targets for our materials. We have fundamental solutions already in place with respect to mass balance-based offerings from bio-mass or mixed plastic waste sources, but we are further active to get closer to the overall target to become a climate-neutral economy. As part of our efforts to reach BASF's new climate targets, we will power our first plants of the Zhanjiang Verbund site in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, using 100 percent renewable electricity.

• A joint project initiated by BMW and various companies of the ALBA Group intends to expand the circular economy and further reduce the use of primary materials in the automotive industry. In a first step the ALBA Group takes old vehicles and removes the components that can be mechanically recycled. The remaining plastic parts are then shredded together with the vehicles, ending up as shredder residue.

From this fraction, the ALBA Group then separates as many materials as possible that can also be mechanically recycled. As part of the project, BASF then analyzes the remaining plastic residues and checks whether the plastic mix can be used in chemical recycling.

If this is the case, the plastic waste could then serve as a raw material for pyrolysis oil used at BASF. This oil is set to replace fossil raw materials in the BASF Verbund and will be used to produce plastics with the same quality as new products.

Q: What attributes are customers looking for in new materials?
Becky: Sustainability, i.e., recycled content, CO2 footprint, end-of-life options, is the main focus of development targets. In addition, we are facing bottlenecks in various value streams that customers look for stable supply chain solutions that are less depended on critical raw material supply situations. The latter will become more and more important also with respect to the [European Union] Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.

Q: Has COVID-19 affected BASF's ability to introduce new products?
Becky: We have reacted in various ways to speed up the implementation of tools that allow remote interactions in times of corona-induced contact restrictions. For example ... our activities around Holo-Lens (an augmented reality tool). Furthermore, we started to offer new digital tools for remote interaction like our new "Molded" internet-based simulation service that also should have a significant impact on the ways of collaboration in the future.

Publication date: 15/12/2021

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This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31